In 1984 the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute set out to do a noble thing: fight heart disease, obesity, and all the complications that come with it. They launched a massive campaign to promote low-fat diets. Saturated fat consumption certainly went down, but obesity and diabetes levels went up.
This raised the question: is it really fat consumption that makes us fat? Researchers from Stanford University attempted to answer just that. The study was simple: one group ate all the fat and protein they wanted, but were restricted to 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day while the other group was put on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet where carbs made up 55-60 percent of all calories. Both groups lost weight, but the low-carb group saw nearly twice the benefits in weight loss, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.
According to the infographic, which is based off of ‘Why We Get Fat‘ by Gary Taubes, the science behind why this may be is quite simple. While it is certainly true that fat gain is a result of more fat being stored in fat cells, we have to look at: why does they body store more fat in the first place? As it turns out, insulin is the body’s primary regulator of fat metabolism. When insulin levels go up, we store fat. When it falls, we use fat for fuels.
And guess what drives insulin? That’s right: carbohydrates.
Even then, it’s not so cut and dry. The easier the body can digest the carbs, the more they will affect insulin levels. Examples of easily digestible carbs are starches, liquid carbs, and foods made of refined flour. A great example of a complex, hard-to-digest carbohydrate source is the sweet potato, which we have talked about extensively here, here, and here.
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